Patients deprived of free medicines in Jhapa

Published On: July 29, 2017 07:48 AM NPT By: Raju Adhikari

JHAPA, July 28: It has been more than three days since the primary health center in Kankai Municipality does not have ‘amoxicillin’, an antibiotic. In fact, this life saving drug which is supposed to be distributed for free by the government is not available at most of the health centers in the district since Wednesday.

On Thursday, most of the patients who came for treatment at the health center were prescribed this medicine. Though the government has assured to provide this medicine for free, patients are always obliged to buy it.   According to health workers, they have not been able to provide this medicine to all patients as they have run out of stock. 
“Many times, doctors tell us to get the medicines they prescribe from the health centers but we always have to buy them from other pharmacies,” said Jashodha Rajbanshi, a local.

 Raju Bista, the storekeeper, said that they will immediately send a requisition form to the District Public Health Office for the medicines whose stocks have run out. According to him patients coming to Surunga Health Center will have to wait for 15 more days to get the ‘free’ medicine. 

With the onset of monsoon, locals are suffering from various rain-induced health problems, including infections. Amoxicillin is a key drug to cure such illnesses. However, most health centers in the district have run out of the stock of the drug. 

There are six primary health centers in Jhapa. Everyday, each health center receives many service seekers or patients, mostly poor laborers and farmers and people from the marginalized communities who cannot afford to buy medicines. 

“The government has announced to provide some drugs for free but we are not supplied with these drugs,” said a government doctor of Jhapa, adding “The patients always complain to us for not getting the free drugs. When we ask the officials at the district Public Health Office (DPHO) for the supply of such drugs, they say that the stock has depleted or the process of tender to buy the medicine is going on.”

On Thursday, Hemanta Sharma, who was suffering from abdominal pain, reached the Kakadvitta-based health center for treatment. The health officer prescribed him an ‘antacid’. Sharma asked him if he would have to buy the medicine or get it from the health center. He was told to come later as “the medicine is not available right now.” Sharma who had expected an immediate relief had to return empty-handed. 

Like Sharma, there are many patients who don’t get the supposedly free medicines from the primary health centers and are forced to buy them from private pharmacies. 
According to the DPHO, Jhapa, 70 types of drugs from the district hospital, 53 from primary health centers and 35 from health centers are supposed to be distributed for free. But 50 percent of these medicines are not available in most of the health centers of Jhapa. “It almost feels like we are lying to the patients but we really don’t get most of the medicines and whatever we have is also limited,” said Indra Hari Bhattarai, a health worker of Surunga Health Center.

As informed by the health workers, even Paracetamol, a simple painkiller is not available at the health centers. “We demand 5,000 tablets but the DPHO only sends 1,000 tablets. This has become a serious problem,” Bhattarai added. 

Madhusudan Koirala, chief of the DPHO, said that  there are altogether 50 health centers in the district from where these medicines are distributed for free. “The free drugs are distributed at three levels, but sometimes, due to the lack of coordination among various levels, they are not distributed properly.”  

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